Former DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has been labelled a “cold-hearted racist” by the EFF for claiming, in a tweet, that colonialism had been beneficial to those subjected to the system.
In a tweet storm on her arrival from Singapore, where she had been on an official visit, Zille charged that South Africa had much to learn from the repressive city state.
By 9am, “Helen Zille” was the number one trending topic for South Africa on Twitter.
Later DA spokesperson Phumzile van Damme confirmed that she had been referred to the party’s federal legal commission for investigation over violating its social media policy.
While waiting to board a plane to Cape Town on Thursday after spending a week in Singapore and Japan to strengthen tourism and investment relations, the former DA leader tweeted:
“For those claiming legacy of colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water, etc.”
A few minutes later, she tweeted again: “Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influence? Just be honest, please.”
An hour later Zille apologised for the tweets, but first said: “Getting on to an aeroplane now and won’t get on to the wi-fi so that I can cut off those who think every aspect of colonial legacy was bad.”
At about 9am, Zille said: “I apologise unreservedly for a tweet that may have come across as a defence of colonialism. It was not.”
Social media erupted soon afterwards, with users calling her a “racist” and a “certified white supremacist”.
Opposition parties have called for Zille not to go unpunished.
EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the party rejected Zille’s apology, and also called on the DA to remove Zille from the premiership.
Following the recent local government election, the EFF voted to hand power to the DA in Johannesburg and Tshwane.
“Her apology is meaningless, because in essence the comments on colonialism represent her true views and the company she keeps.
“It is a fact that many racist white people sit at dinner tables when black people are not there and express their cold-hearted racism; this is what Helen Zille truly is; a cold-hearted racist who believes that colonialism, which was a crime against the humanity of black people, is not a bad thing,” Ndlozi said.
The ANC in the Western Cape said Zille should not hold office and must be recalled, with acting provincial leader Khaya Magaxa adding that the DA seemed to be comfortable that Zille regularly targeted people of colour.
“She clearly has a race problem and is an utter bigot. These attacks are in conflict with our constitution and reflect badly on the DA and Zille’s ability to serve in our unitary government. The DA can no longer afford to have her as a public representative,” Magaxa said.
Zille has previously been criticised for making controversial statements on social media.
At the end of last year, Zille responded to an incident at The Bungalow restaurant in Clifton when two people were racially profiled on their till slip, by tweeting: “Why is it OK to racially profile ppl for jobs but not to identify ppl at a table by their race?”
She soon deleted the tweet.
In 2012 Zille, via Twitter, referred to Eastern Cape pupils who flocked to the Western Cape for a better education as refugees.
Van Damme said the DA was committed to redressing the wrongs of the past.
“DA Leader Mmusi Maimane has referred Ms Helen Zille to the federal legal commission for investigation following a series of tweets this morning which may have violated the DA’s social media policy for public representatives. Ms Zille has already issued an unreserved apology for her tweet. We want to build a united South Africa,” Van Damme said.
Members within the DA have also distanced themselves from Zille’s statements.
Party leader Mmusi Maimane tweeted: “Let’s make this clear: colonialism, like apartheid, was a system of oppression and subjugation. It can never be justified.”
DA MP Terri Stander said: “I do not share Helen Zille’s view that colonialism had some benefits. Oppression and racial supremacy can never be justified. Disappointed.”
Party member Mbali Ntuli tweeted: “It was ONLY negative!! Colonialism=development argument is trash as those subjugated can attest to.”
Ntuli tweeted again: “It’s like saying Nazism was good for German democracy and their advancements in technology.”